Wolves fall apart in second half

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 24, 2012 - 6:49 AM

With the Rockets' Kevin McHale back standing on the sidelines at Target Center, the Wolves reverted to the sort of play McHale often suffered through as their coach.

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Timberwolves forward Kevin Love sat at his locker room stall after Monday's 107-92 loss to Houston at Target Center.

His feet soaking in a tub of ice, he kept his head down as he answered questions, hacking and wheezing into his cupped hands, his eyes watering, his nose running from a bug that has bothered him since Friday's improbable comeback victory over the Clippers in Los Angeles.

He looked terrible, even after scoring a season-high 39 points.

And he was one of the healthy ones.

"I don't know what it is," he said. "Ask Dr. [Sheldon] Burns. I don't feel too good."

On a night when No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams started his first NBA game after Wes Johnson fell ill, the Wolves trailed by 12 in the first quarter, led by five late in the third and then succumbed to a Rockets team that won its seventh consecutive game with coach Kevin McHale guiding and hollering and clapping them to a 19-1 run that ended the third quarter and began the fourth and ultimately won the game.

Playing with nine healthy players -- fewer than that if you count Love and his congested head -- the Wolves never found a counter when McHale went smaller than small and the Rockets simply ran away from an opponent playing its third game in four nights, and shorthanded at that.

"We only have nine guys," said Wolves coach Rick Adelman, in his first game facing a Houston team that he coached the past four seasons. "I have three guards, and no small forward. We tried to adjust, but you're putting people out of position. We tried. We just didn't have enough answers."

The Wolves played without six players, including small forwards Johnson and Michael Beasley, guard J.J. Barea and swingman Martell Webster.

So the Rockets went small, trumping the Wolves' three healthy guards by playing as many as four of their own at one time. They spread the floor and rode guards Kevin Martin, Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic all the way to that seven-game winning streak.

"It's as good as the last one," McHale said following his first game back at Target Center since June 2009, when he was forced out of the franchise he ran for 14 seasons. "Hopefully, it feels as good as the next one."

McHale came onto the floor for a timeout smiling, hooting and hollering "Whoa, whoa, whoa" after Dragic executed a fancy reverse layup late in the game, a part of the game when the Rockets eventually ran the Wolves into submission.

Dragic just might have been the Rockets' MVP, even though Martin scored 31 points and Lowry provided the second triple-double of his career (16 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds). It was Dragic who provided the pulse and nine points in that transformative 19-1 run.

"They play Kevin Martin at the 4, that's rare," Wolves guard Ricky Rubio said of the 6-6 shooting guard, whom McHale turned into a power forward for part of the night. "It was hard, we couldn't have all team or at least more than three guards.

"It is what it is. We don't have to complain about nothing. It means more minutes for us. That's good, too, but we have to take advantage of that."

The Wolves might not have had anything to complain about, but Rubio believed he had reason to apologize to his teammates after the game, as he took the blame for the loss.

The Wolves used a 14-4 run to assume a 70-65 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter -- and then Rubio committed four of his five turnovers during that 19-1 Rockets run that turned the game. The Wolves committed 20 turnovers, including 10 in the fourth quarter.

"I feel guilty, I feel a lot is my fault because we were up and I start to lose a lot of balls," he said. "That's where I feel bad. I know that one player can't win and one player can't lose, either, but I feel guilty for this loss. I would try to improve what I did wrong and try to be better next time."

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